Police

Charge dropped for Homestead police sergeant accused of cover-up

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Prosecutors on Monday dropped a criminal charge against a former Homestead police sergeant once accused of covering up an attack on a man outside a bar.

Lizanne Deegan, 46, had been accused of failing to write a report about an attack by a fellow officer on a patron outside Celio’s Latin Quarter in February 2011.

Deegan was one of three of Homestead officers arrested in July 2012 for their involvement in alleged attacks outside the bar, frequented by South Miami-Dade’s migrant and agricultural workers.

Homestead later fired all three officers.

Deegan was the supervisor over Officer Giovanni Soto, who prosecutors said struck a drunk patron, causing a significant cut to his lip, then struck him again on the hand.

The man, Hugo Yaquiyos, went to a friend’s house and called 911. Soto arrived and took the man home.

But Yaquiyos, still intoxicated, called 911 again to complain. Homestead police “picked him up and dropped him at his house like a dog,” according to a prosecutor’s memo.

Deegan responded to the home, took photos of the man and waited with him while paramedics arrived. At a local hospital, Deegan interviewed the man, gave him a case card and her phone number.

Soto was charged with felony battery and official misconduct, while Deegan was charged with official misconduct.

But prosecutors, in a memo released Monday, said they could not prove that Deegan acted with “corrupt intent” in failing to write a report on the episode or report it to the intern affairs bureau.

And as prosecutors prepared for a possible trial, Yaquiyos — who was drunk at the time and never called Deegan to follow up — had trouble remembering the case.

Miami-Dade prosecutors decided to drop the charge in exchange for a donation to a crime victims’ organization. Deegan is appealing her firing.

“Sgt. Deegan is thrilled and gratified that this long ordeal is finally over and that she is vindicated,” said her attorney, Richard Sharpstein.

As for Soto, who told investigators conflicting versions of what happened, he accepted a guilty plea to a misdemeanor battery charge while agreeing to not appeal his firing from the Homestead police department. The conviction will not appear on his criminal history.

The third officer arrested, Jeffrey Rome, accepted a plea deal in June. He pleaded to two misdemeanor battery charges and agreed to give up his police credentials. The convictions will not appear on his criminal record.

Homestead internal affairs detectives said they secretly video recorded Rome pepper-spraying a man, and dragging an elderly man to the ground and kicking him unconscious. Prosecutors also said Rome pepper-sprayed another man in the face, handcuffed him to a fence and sent away an ambulance that the man had called for.

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